Third of drivers less likely to vote Tory over smart motorway failings

Third of drivers less likely to vote Tory over smart motorway failings

Third of drivers are less likely to vote Conservative over party’s failure to scrap smart motorways: Tories could lose votes as Labour vows to restore hard shoulder

  • Poll finds 84% believe ministers are ‘partly’ at fault for smart motorway deaths 
  • Read more: No more ‘deadly’ smart motorways to be built in Britain

More than a third of drivers say they are less likely to vote Conservative over the failure to scrap smart motorways, according to a new poll.

In a survey of thousands of motorists, 37 per cent said they may not vote Tory at the next election because of the Government’s policy on the issue.

It lays bare the strength of feeling among drivers, with 53 per cent of respondents saying they believe ministers have handled the roll-out of the controversial roads ‘badly’.

Eight in ten (84 per cent) also believe ministers and road bosses are at least ‘partly’ responsible for the smart motorway death toll after several coroners warned of fatalities.

It threatens to become a key issue for Britain’s 33million drivers at the next election, with Labour pledging to scrap smart motorways by restoring the hard shoulder on all existing schemes.

A new poll has suggested more than a third of drivers are less likely to vote Conservative due to the party’s failure to scrap smart motorways [File image]

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced no more new smart motorways are going to be built in Britain

Earlier this month Prime Minister Rishi Sunak halted new smart motorways from being built, but stopped short of scrapping more than 400 miles of existing schemes.

The poll, by campaign group FairFuelUK, found that 95 per cent supported the Government scrapping all future schemes.

READ MORE: More than 20000 motorists are ‘sitting ducks’ on smart motorways

But 91 per cent said they should go further by also ditching existing ones and restoring the hard shoulder.

FairFuelUK founder, Howard Cox, said: ‘The clueless Department for Transport at last recognises that preventing fatalities trumps cheap road building.

‘Shamefully it’s taken many deaths to change their cheapskate attitude to protecting drivers who break down on our vital but still badly thought-out motorway network.

‘It’s time now for all hard shoulders to be restored.’ Louise Haigh MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said: ‘Labour has long demanded action on smart motorways and it’s a tragedy that so many lives have been lost waiting for ministers to act.

‘This damning poll shows the public have lost faith in the Conservatives’ botched roll-out of smart motorways.

‘The public know what ministers still refuse to accept – smart motorways, coupled with inadequate safety systems, are not fit for purpose and are putting lives at risk.

‘That’s why Conservative ministers should reinstate the hard shoulder on existing smart motorways and carry out an urgent review of the inadequate safety systems and evidence.’

Protestors carry a cardboard coffin to the houses of Parliament as part of a protest against Smart Motorways

It came as Lord Hammond, who signed off a large expansion of the controversial roads while Transport Secretary in 2010/11, said he believed ‘cost saving’ measures may have compromised safety.

The Tory peer suggested original designs for the roads which he green-lighted had not been adhered to.

He told the Daily Mail: ‘My strong recollection is that the original project was approved on the basis of comprehensive sensor-based oversight/monitoring of all smart motorways and automated lane closure technology [for when vehicles break down].

‘Clearly, cost saving has meant those measures have not been included in every case and that would invalidate the original benefit/cost analysis.

‘It is, of course, possible that subsequent secretaries of state signed off on a variation.’ Last week Transport Secretary Mark Harper defended the roads, claiming that their safety record is ‘very good’ and ‘better’ than that of conventional motorways.

He told MPs on the Commons transport committee: ‘The decision we’ve reached is a balanced one which reflects both the actual safety record of smart motorways, which is very good, but the fact that for whatever reason we haven’t done a very good job in persuading the public of that.’

However, a report by National Highways last year found that smart motorways without a hard shoulder are three times more lethal to break down on than those that retain the safety lane.

Between 2016 and 2020 there were 0.06 serious injuries or deaths per billion vehicle miles travelled after motorists broke down on ‘controlled’ smart motorways, which permanently retain the hard shoulder.

But on ‘all-lane running’ smart motorways, which have no hard shoulder because it has been converted into an extra live lane, the figure was 0.19 – a rate more than three times higher.

And for conventional motorways the figure was 0.09, meaning ALR smart motorways are more than twice as lethal as these roads.

The FairFuelUK survey asked drivers if the government was right to cancel all future smart motorways.

Of more than 5,700 respondents, 95 per cent said yes, with 3 per cent saying no and 2 per cent ‘don’t know’.

When asked if ministers should go further by scrapping existing schemes, 91 per cent said yes and 5 per cent no, with 4 per cent saying ‘don’t know’.

During the Tory leadership election last summer Mr Sunak described smart motorways as ‘unsafe’.

At the time, he added: ‘We need to listen to drivers, be on their side and stop with the pursuit of policies that go against common sense.’ An AA spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister has accepted that “all drivers deserve to have confidence in the roads they use to get around the country”, yet this survey, and many of our own, clearly shows that they don’t have confidence in “smart” motorways.

‘Whilst we welcome the move to scrap new schemes there is much more that needs to be done to restore confidence.’ The Department for Transport was contacted for comment.

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